Same-sex and art of marriage

Editorial, Normal

The National – Thursday, December 23, 2010

FIRST it was recognition for the heavily discriminated against minority grouping.
Then, when recognition was established, the debate inched up a notch to fight discrimination at the work place and such like.
Now, it is full pledged changes of the law, places in the ministry of churches and recognition of same-sex marriages.
The debate on homosexuality, hitherto a taboo subject, is a quite, insidious but powerful movement which is sure to hit PNG like a cyclone.
Only this cyclone will not abate in the way of other storms – run its course and then dissipate.
It will remain and be loud, rumbling and murky with fact mixed with fiction
and discrimination and bigotry coupled with moral and spiritual values.
PNG is a sitting duck where this matter is concerned because even the churches are quiet on the subject.
PNG has declared itself to be a Christian country under its constitution but Christianity does not necessarily make homosexuality evil. Or, is it?
With the exception of the Catholic church and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, many of the churches represented in PNG are divided worldwide on the issue.
The Evangelical Lutheran church of America, which has about one million followers in PNG, created a storm last year to allow openly gay persons to serve in the ministry but to not bless same-sex marriages.
Yet, the Lutheran church in Denmark and the Netherlands have allowed same-sex marriages for decades.
The United church of Christ is, by definition, congregational, thus the views of one church may not be forced or taken on by another church. But a general synod back in 1985 encouraged congregations to be “open and affirming” urging churches to be non-discriminating in areas of employment, volunteer efforts and membership.
Again in 2005, another general synod encouraged congregations to adopt equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. 
Several congregations allowed for ordination of non-celibate homosexual clergy, but only 10% of Uniting church congregations actually have an official “open and affirming” statement.
The Presbyterian church of the United States continues to debate the issue of homosexuality. Currently, the church takes the stance that homosexuality is a sin, but maintains a concern for homosexual believers.
However, the church does not necessarily take a stance on whether or not the sexual orientation is chosen or changeable. This church’s  “definitive guidance” warns members to be sensitive when rejecting the sin so they do not reject the person.
The Presbyterian church (USA) also calls for the elimination of laws that govern private sexual behaviour between adults and laws that would discriminate based upon sexual orientation.
However, the church does not sanction homosexual marriage in the church, and a Presbyterian minister cannot perform a same-sex union ceremony like the marriage ceremony.
Other, smaller, Presbyterian church groups like the Presbyterian church in America, the associate reformed Presbyterian church, and the Orthodox Presbyterian church all state that homosexuality goes against biblical teachings, but they do believe homosexuals can repent of their “lifestyle” choice.
The Methodist church also has differing views on homosexuality.
The Methodist church of Great Britain has not taken a definitive stance on homosexuality, leaving biblical interpretation open. The church does denounce discrimination based on sexual orientation, and affirms homosexuals’ participation in the ministry.
However, the church did recently prohibit the blessing of same sex marriages.
Meanwhile, the United Methodist church does support the inclusion of homosexuals in the congregation, and homosexuals can take part in sacraments and programmes.
However, the UMC does state that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching”, so the church does not allow homosexuals to become ordained ministers. The UMC will not conduct homosexual marriages and will not allow them to be held in their churches.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have taken the stance that God intended marriage to be between a man and woman and that homosexuality is a sin. They also feel that God disapproves of those who practice homosexuality, and feel that same-sex marriages are also unacceptable.